The Liliana Nirvana Technique
No, the Liliana Nirvana is not a secret massage chakra technique. But it may be the secret to launching a successful self-publishing career.
The effectiveness of this technique hit me at RWA. I attended a panel entitled “Self-Publishing Q&A.” It was two jam-packed hours of tossing out questions to mega bestselling authors Barbara Freethy, Bella Andre, Courtney Milan, and Liliana Hart. Of the four, only Liliana entered self-publishing without first having had a career with a traditional publisher. This anomalous beginning stood out during their introductions, but the uniqueness of Liliana’s success disappeared during the Q&A. Why? Because Liliana published as if she had a traditional publishing history.
She calls it her “5 down and 1 in the hole” technique. (No, this is not a page from the Kama Sutra. It’s far more important than that.)
Now, I should start by saying that there is no guarantee for success with any publishing path. My good friend and publishing genius Bella Andre disagrees with the ideas I’m about to set forth. And if you give me enough time and contradictory case studies, I might come to disagree with it as well. But right now, I lean toward thinking Liliana’s technique is absolutely brilliant. I think she discovered something that a lot of us lucked into. I think my own success owes something to the “5 down and 1 in the hole” publishing strategy.
So what exactly is it?
The idea is this: Annual releases are too slow to build on one another. And not just in the repetition of getting eyeballs on your works, but in how online recommendation algorithms work. Liliana suggests publishing 5 works all at once. Same day. And she thinks you should have another work sitting there ready to go a month later. While these works are gaining steam, write the next work, which if you write and edit in two months, will hit a month after the “hole” work.
Why does this work? I think it has to do with “impressions,” or the number of times people see a product before they decide to take a chance on it. (In this case, the product is your name.) It also has to do with recommendation algorithms and how new works are treated on various online bestseller lists. From my own experience, I know that it was following WOOL with four more rapid releases that helped my career take off. I followed these five releases a month later with FIRST SHIFT, and I released a work every three or four months after that (SECOND SHIFT, I, ZOMBIE, THIRD SHIFT, plus several short works).
Imagine a TV show that released an episode every year, and you get an idea of the limitations of such a system. Contrariwise, look at how Netflix drops an entire season and all the attention that garners. Where this gets really powerful is in the “also-bought” recommendations. Michael Bunker let me in on a plan of his to release one of his works at the same time as me. He promoted my work to his fans, and asked people to buy both books, which “paired” us.
Simultaneous releases have a similar effect on one another. While it’s still a chore to get initial readers, every sale will lead to recommendations for 4 or 5 more of your works. This is far less likely with a lot of time between those initial releases. Some authors will tell you you’re crazy to sit on a product while you write more, but this method has quite a track record.
Think of how it worked for authors who came from traditional publishing. Critics of self-publishing try to wave off the success of authors like Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and Joe Konrath to some imaginary massive following they won from their publisher, but they have told me that this isn’t the case. They didn’t gain a massive following until after they regained rights to their backlists and self-published. When they did get those rights, they secured works that were already written and edited. They could do some minor tweaks, update cover art, and release those works in rapid order.
Liliana wasn’t on that panel at RWA as an anomaly, but as an imitator, in all the best senses of that word. By even daring to release this way, I think she’s a genius. Ah, but it’s not a theory without some testing and validation. Otherwise, it’s just an idea. A hypothesis. Anecdote. Well guess what? Some of Liliana’s peers have tried the Liliana Nirvana technique, and the string of successes is absolutely remarkable.
Lila Ashe, Jessie Evans, Cristin Harber, and Marquita Valentine, are just a few who have used the 5 down, 1 in the hole release schedule. These are authors who just got their start and are already making full-time wages from their writing. Does that mean anyone who does this will have success? Absolutely not. You’ve got to have great stories, catchy blurbs, professional covers, quality editing, and the right metadata. But you are sunk without these things however you publish. Having them should be a given.
What I think the technique does is give you a better chance, once you have all these other things down. You hit bookstore shelves with a handful of titles at once, and they prop each other up. They direct attention toward each other. They amplify your signal. Yeah, it’s hard to create that initial buzz, but what if you can do something to turn up the juice? Liliana Hart may have discovered a way.
Does it have to be 5 books? Probably not. Will it always be this effective? Possibly not. Can you get even crazier? I think so. I blogged a few weeks ago about the insanity of releasing 12 books all at once. I know of a group of authors working on a plan to do something very much like this. I may even be a part of it, trying a new form of the Liliana Nirvana technique. I just hope I don’t throw my back out like last time.